Papillon Belle was a passion project of mine completely self-funded by my work as a graphic designer and illustrator. Everything I know about jewellery making and working with butterfly wings I learnt while developing this range. A lot of people told me along the way that ‘it couldn’t be done’, but I endured and always found a way to solve the trickiest of technical challenges.
Looking back at my Papillon Belle journey
What sparked the idea?
I inherited jewellery from my great grandmother dating back to the Victorian era which contained real butterfly wings. I have always been obsessed with butterflies and was instantly intrigued at how you can take something as fleeting as a butterfly wing and encapsulate it in an heirloom that can be passed down three generations.
I starting reading up about butterfly conservation and came across The Antennae Foundation. After a lengthy correspondence with them, I knew I wanted to find a way to support butterfly conservation by developing a range of high-end contemporary heirloom jewellery.
Creating the first prototype
The process of creating the jewellery we offer today wasn’t a simple one. I started off working with a jeweller to develop the first prototype. It took 6 months to complete and was a real technical challenge. I learnt a lot about the behaviour of precious metal during the casting process as well as the challenges of working with cut glass, engraving precious metal and setting butterfly wings.
Expanding the range and building the brand
In 2012, I had metal dies made in Switzerland that could pierce precision shapes out of butterfly wings to ensure they would fit into our custom settings.
I then found a metal workshop in Salt River that welded these dies onto handles for me so we could use it to stamp shapes for the new Cabochon Collection. This would expand into a range of butterfly wing charms, rings and earrings using glass domes to cover the wings.
In the March of that year, I exhibited at my first Design Indaba Expo. It was a great platform for me to introduce the Papillon Belle brand into an international audience. I would continue to receive orders from customers all over the world years after meeting them at the expo.
In 2012 I also introduced the Skeleton Wing range. This was inspired by the intricate lines of a butterfly wing, and the final products are delicate, yet equally bold – just like the species they are designed to emulate.
My Papillon Belle wedding
Expanding into textiles
I introduced our range of silk scarves in 2014 at the Design Indaba Expo. I did the illustrations myself creating kaleidoscopes from photographs of butterfly wings and printing these on 100% organic silk. The result is bold, vibrant and truly unique. I love wearing them as they are cool in summer and warm in winter and ads a colour pop to any outfit.
We celebrate the birth of our son
On 10 September 2014, my husband and I welcomed our first baby boy. Noah Campbell Westcott was born in Cape Town at 7am, weighing a healthy 3.3kg. To mark is birth, I set a wing from the beautiful Mimathyma Schrenckii in a single glass pendant and had the frame engraved with his name and birth date.
Introducing the Botanical Range
Introducing the Stacking Bracelets
Introducing the Art Deco Collection
Introducing the Circle of Life Collection
Introducing the New Romance Collection
We celebrate the birth of our twins
On 28 February 2019 we welcomed our twins Luna and Miles to the world.
It came as quite a shock and surprise to find out that we were expecting twins, as it was a natural pregnancy and we have no known history of twins in our families.
I quickly realised that the twins and my 5 year old son would be a full-time commitment for some time. As Papillon Belle is a part time passion project of mine and I am personally involved in all aspects of the business (from production, to marketing and distribution), I decided to take a hiatus so I could focus on my family. So as Papillon Belle prepared to enter its chrysalis phase, two new little butterflies were about to emerge.
It was a difficult pregnancy and the twins arrived a month early, but I am grateful for the time I got to spend with them as they have grown into two beautiful, healthy little people. As you can well imagine, I have my hands pretty full these days, so I decided to relaunch Papillon Belle as a much more bespoke collection.
What’s next for Papillon Belle?
In order to continue balancing my work and family life, I will be simplifying my offering and only upload a small selection of pieces each month. I will also be reducing the amount of stock I have on hand and this means that the butterflies I have available may not become available again once they are sold out.
I wanted to add a thank you here for all the support and interest I have received over the years. I am proud to have created this small, but significant business, which has brought so much attention to the importance of farming projects that supports biodiversity. I have met some incredible people along my journey who have loved Papillon Belle as much as I do. I look forward sharing the next chapter of this project with you.